No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality. A spotlight on NYC-based avantgarde fashion brand Oraz, starring muse Lorena Relja. Photographed by Marco Giuliano and styled by Anca Macavei.
Can you tell us the story behind the brand Oraz?
ORAZ stands for “Original Anna Zhou”. I have been a painter since childhood while my interest in fashion began in 2014. During my five years at the Academy of Art, I started developing my brand image and how to present a unique and individualistic collection. After my graduation fashion show in 2019, I found my biggest passion was creating couture designs. I interned for different couture houses in New York. One notably impactful program was at Marchesa for 7 months. It was a great experience that allowed me to hone my skills from fabric to a final product. ORAZ derives from those experiences and passions that delve into the world of contemporary couture.
Are your roots in Chinese culture and if so how did this influence your aesthetic compared to the US, which is where you are based in the past years?
I moved from Shanghai, China to San Francisco, California 6 years ago. From an early age, my family and educators never stopped telling me to work hard or give up. That motivation gave me the courage to enter the fashion world, knowing the challenges a new designer is up against. I have a very free spirit and San Francisco was the place that allowed my creativity to flourish versus the moderate viewpoints coming from China.
You state that ”ORAZ is an avant-garde, contemporary couture brand that exhibits self-expression, enchantment and sensuality in an unorthodox yet sophisticated way.” Can you tell us more about the inspirations behind your brand and collections.
My inspiration comes from my life experiences and each collection is an expression of my feelings in that time period. One example was while I was creating the “Unbreathable” collection. At the time, I was in a very difficult, nightmare-esque relationship that forced me into a place of stifling silence. There weren’t words to describe the feeling so I instead turned to my designs and raw materials, allowing me to heal from my depression.
Your garments are fairly complex and intricate, how do you start working on a piece/collection?
Each garment begins with concept development and sketching. From there, all of my garments go through four rounds of fittings to get to a final alteration and hand finishing. My process usually takes about two months from start to finish.
Which is the role of couture and craftsmanship in nowadays “normcore” fashion direction from your perspective?
I think all aspects of fashion should be respected, but I believe the creation of couture pieces is where you touch the soul of the designer.
What’s the greatest challenge nowadays when it comes to creating environmentally sustainable garments?
Textile use is always the biggest challenge, but I think it is important for designers to keep sustainability in mind.
Your first collection “Suffering” was a non-discrimination and equality claim for transgender people, while “Unbreathable”, as highlighted in our pictures as well was based off of a heartbreak; what should we expect from you next?
My next collection will be all white instead of the all-black in “Unbreathable.” It tells a romantic love story based on myself with inspiration from the decade I was born, the 80s. The collection also reflects the happiness that my recent marriage brings me. But with all of my designs, I want to encourage everyone to be strong and positive when facing any of life’s challenges.
Photography: Marco Giuliano / @marcogiulianoph
Styling: Anca Macavei / @ancamacavei
Creative direction: Inga Lavarini / @ilavarini
Video assistant: Isabel Evangelisti / @isabelevangelisti
Styling assistant: Martina Cambruzzi / @martinacambruzzi
Set design using: Gravity Backdrops / @gravitybackdrops
Model: Lorena Relja at Monster Management / @lorenarelja @monster_mgmt
All garments: Oraz / @oraz_ny